How Asbestos Shingles Started and Why They are so Dangerous

How Asbestos Shingles Started and Why They are so Dangerous

When asbestos was considered a safe material, it was used in many different products because of its strength and insulating properties. One man, Lutwig Hatscheck, purchased an asbestos factory in 1893, and in 1900 invented asbestos cement. He was then able to patent the product in 1901, naming it Eternit from the word “aetemitas” which means everlasting. He then patented the process of making asbestos shingles which were made from asbestos fibers and hydraulic cement. The tiles were rigid, durable, and fireproof and resisted warping and bug damage. This made asbestos shingles far superior to non-asbestos shingles which were made from slate or clay. They were also cheaper, making it easy for consumers to choose asbestos over regular roofing tiles.

Asbestos shingles were lighter than traditional shingles, which reduced shipping and installation costs, making the shingles an even cheaper option for end users. Their ability to resist fire was also great for communities where fires could be easily spread. By the early 1920s American roofing contractors including Johns-Manville, Carey, Eternit, and Century all had some type of asbestos cement roof shingle offering to consumers. They even were able to add pigment, letting customers customize their home, making this specific type of shingle very popular.

The problem with asbestos shingles is that they contained asbestos. When the fibers are released into the air, they become a big problem for people in the area. It causes lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis– all very serious diseases. Companies that produced asbestos based shingles knew the dangers, but continued to manufacture and sell the products to make a profit. Even people who never worked for asbestos based companies were becoming sick from inhaling the toxic fibers. Thankfully, asphalt based roofing products became popular, keeping workers and consumers safe.

If you have been exposed to asbestos and now have lung cancer or mesothelioma you may be entitled to compensation. Call us at 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form to speak to an attorney and learn your options.

Christopher Jurin, “The Rise and Fall of Asbestos Shingles” The Spruce (February 13, 2019). [Link]

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